Your Own Set of Rules Auction

Posted in Event Coverage on June 7, 2003

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

This event was patterned after the Wizards Invitational’s Auction of the People. Each player is bidding on a set of rules that will affect how much their spells cost, the speed spells are cast at, and a wide variety of other factors. Each player makes a bid based on cards in hand and starting life. All bids begin at 8 cards and 25 life. Players can top the previous bid in turn or drop from the bidding until the next rules set is on the block. A bid of 8 cards 24 life is lower than 8 and 25 but a bid of 7 cards and 25 life is lower than 8 cards and 1 life.

The Auction for the “Your Own Set of Rules” got off to a rousing start when Michael Musser kicked things off with a fairly aggressive opening bid of 7 card and 20 life for Rules Set 13. Rather than dally around with life Rob went down to 6 cards and 20 life. Scadeau shocked everyone when he immediately dropped the bidding to 5 cards and 5 life. Only Brian Lyons felt comfortable swimming in those waters and they went back and forth with Scadeau willing to bid down to 3 life. Brian cut him off at the pass and went immediately to 5 cards and 1 life. Scadeau could go down to 4 cards and 25 life but instead chose to let Brian live on the razor’s edge with 1 life and an opening hand of 5 cards that he could preset.

Jeff Taylor opened the next round of bidding and went for the solid Rules Set 15 which basically gives its owner their own personal Howling Mine and the ability to skip a draw in exchange for 3 life. Jeff opened with a cautious bid of 8-25. Scadeau went immediately to 7-19 but there did not seem to be very much interest in this Rules set beyond that. There was a some half-hearted bidding and when Carl Lobato found himself the only bidder at 7-13 he asked if could bid himself down to 6-25 and found that he could. A number of onlookers were startled that there wasn’t more aggressive bidding for this one on the card front since you would make up the cards very quickly thanks to the extra draw each turn.

There was quite a bit of speculation about the various Extended decks that could be built under the different rules sets. Rules Set 17 was the only one that left nothing to the imagination. Mirage block is just gravy here for the meat of Ice Age—Necropotence. There is little doubt that the winner of this rules set will be playing the format dominating Necro Donate. Haibing Hu opened the bidding with an unrealistic 8-25. Dave Williams aggressively followed with a bid of 7-18 and a number of people dropped when they saw the intense interest in this one. In addition to Hu and Williams Mike Musser, Jeff Zandi and Trent Boneau stayed in pushing the bid down to 7-10 when it came back to Hu who went to 6-25. Only Jeff Zandi remained and he won the rules set at 6-13. The Necro Donate deck survived a number of bannings that tried to neuter the deck—can and opening hand of 6 cards with 13 life do what banning Dark Ritual could not?

When the opportunity to open the bidding came around to Trent Boneau, he chose Rules Set 2—which would seemingly favor a U/R deck with one casting cost Wild Mongrels and Elephant Guides. There was moderate interest in this one from Jonathan Pechon, Adam Bernstein and Rob Lawing but only Michael Musser and Dave Williams were serious enough to go into 6 card territory. Musser ended up with a winning bid of 6-15.

At last year’s Invitational, Event Horizons created their own expansion set for use in the tournament. There were a handful of mechanics introduced some of which are being recycled for this event. One of those mechanics is Terra-Forming, which allows you to play any card in your hand as a comes-into-play tapped land that can tap for any mana in it casting cost. Rob Lawing opened the bidding with a predictable 8-25. There was an amusing moment when Neil Reeves tried to figure out what Terra-Forming was and instead just bowed out with a shake of the head. Despite moderate interest form Jonathan Pechon and Trent Boneau, only Lawing and Donald “The Governor” Paul were willing to go down to 6 cards for this oddity and the Governor seemed pleased when he picked it up for 6-20.

Sterling Savage was the opening bidder on Rules Set 3, which gave it winner no minimum deck size and the ability to make your opponent discard by skipping a draw. This was another white elephant—it seemed like it should have some potential for abuse but no one knew precisely what form that abuse should take. Lawing, Reeves, Scadeau, Pechon and Hu all played hot potato with it at 7 cards and one life less with each bid. Haibing seemed kind of startled when he “won” this one with 7-19.

As usual, Dave Williams had a plan. He was startled when several Rules Sets went cheaper than he had anticipated in his pre-game planning. I asked him why he didn’t jump in on them if this was the case but he had his sight set on different prey. Dave feigned disinterest and put a bid in on Rules Set 4 which gives sorceries and instants Flashback and Buyback. No one else seemed really interested and when the bidding came back to him at 8-20 Dave shrugged, ”I’ll take a point” and bid 8-19. When no one else bid he traded his extra card for 6 life and bid himself down to 7-25. Dave let down his guard and now showed his excitement over winning the deck with a loud clap of his hands, “Nice! I already have my decklist!” This was the one he wanted all along.

Rules Set 12 seems ridiculous to me. Its controller can either pay 1 less for sorceries or choose to play sorceries as Instants—Duress during your draw step anyone? Tog seems very good here with instant speed Deep Analysis and even land destruction seems appealing if for nothing else than EOT Stone Rains. Somehow Trent Boneau got it with only one trip around the table for 7-22 which seems like the bargain of the Auction so far.

Rares that cost one less to play and a 30-card sideboard awaited the winner of Rules Set 9 and it saw some lively bidding with 5 of the remaining 7 competitors vying for it. Only Jeff Taylor and Aaron Rzepka were willing to go to 6 cards though and Taylor won with 6-20.

Adam Bernstein opened the bidding for Rules Set 7—Uncommons cost 1 less to play and all cards gain cycling: 3. Lawing went right to 7-25, Neil Reeves almost jumped in on this one and then thought better of it. Scadeau went in with a cautious 7-24 and then Pechon—who had been keeping everyone honest with his bidding—went to 7-20. When Bernstein and Lawing folded the bid came back to Scadeau, “I don’t want it…” he proclaimed making a pushing gesture toward the stunned Pechon. It turns out that Pechon really wanted Rules Set 11 and was going to bid aggressively to get it but was now stuck trying to think of good uncommons, “Who knows their uncommons? Really?”

Rules Set 5 takes the banned cards from Extended and makes them Restricted instead. It also reduces the casting cost of commons by 1. It could make for some interesting decks especially with the Wishes available. Only Bernstein, Rzepka, and Lawing went for this one and Lawing won the half-hearted battle at the traditional 7-20.

Neil Reeves apparently had his eye on Rules Set 14 which reduced the cost on Instants by 1. he found himself the lone bidder after one pass around the table at 8-20. He had to decide if he wanted the extra card or 5 life—he could bid himself down to 7-25. In the end he opted for greed and took the extra card. Like his carmate Williams, he already had his deck built for this format and got exactly the rules he came for.

Scadeau was the lone bidder for Rules Set 1, which allowed mana to be converted to any color. He won at 8-25 and walked away trying to figure out what he was going to do. Musser was still sitting in the auction area and could not believe that it went that cheaply, “First turn Legacy Weapon, activate it turn two. Tinker deck…don’t tell him that though!”

Rules Set 10 saw Rzepka and Savage fighting for the right to cast Artifacts for 1 less—another Tinker candidate no doubt! Savage won the battle at 6-16.

It was down to Bernstein and Rzepka with only three sets remaining. Bernstein decided to fight it out over Rules set 16, which gave creatures morph for 2 less than their actual casting cost and allows you to skip a draw to search your library and put a basic land directly into play. It wasn’t really much of a fight with bidding only going as low as 7-20 and Rzepka winning this unusual set.

Most everyone agreed that Adam got the steal of the tournament in Rules Set 11. This recycles the mechanic Filter from last year’s invitational. Cards with Filter can be used to “impulse” for three cards by paying its casting cost. With more than 20 zero casting cost artifacts available to build with, designers have come up with a number of first turn kills. It will be interesting to see if Bernstein stumbles across any of them himself.

The players have until Sunday to complete their decks.

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